Offstage With: Tyler Braden

Tyler Braden can’t remember exactly how he celebrated when his bold move to Nashville paid off with a publishing deal four years ago, but he’s pretty sure it would’ve involved a trip to The Cheesecake Factory. The mid-range restaurant chain (which may sound familiar from sitcom The Big Bang Theory) is how he celebrates every birthday, but it seems surprisingly modest for all he’s achieved: signing a music publishing deal while still working as a firefighter, sharing the bill with Brooks and Dunn, and making it to the final of American Song Contest representing Tennessee in the U.S.A.’s answer to Eurovision. But then, despite being sat in a sleek record label meeting room in London wearing his own crisp merch cap, Tyler Braden seems surprisingly modest.

Tyler Braden Profile picture (Marisa Taylor)

This is Tyler’s first trip overseas (for music or otherwise) and so far he’s warmed up with a showcase in Camden ahead of the reason he’s in town: playing the C2C festival main arena as part of the Introducing Nashville slot. Having heard about UK shows from fellow artists back home, he may be tweaking his acoustic set for this side of the Atlantic.

“On this trip, I’m playing solo and acoustic in a writer’s round style. I think that’s going to be really cool to be able to share stories and actually have more of an intimate moment with such a large crowd. There is the possibility of pulling out deeper cut songs because I’ve heard that people here know them all.  The coolest thing I’ve heard is that artists [playing in the UK] have pulled out brand new stuff and then the very next night playing a show people know it from YouTube videos, which is crazy. So I might pull out a brand new song just so they have some surprises.”

Deciding on his set list for London’s O2 arena, and Glasgow’s Hydro is a gear change from his previous career as a firefighter. Until 2019 Tyler was juggling the two jobs simultaneously, having transferred to the fire service in Brentwood Tennessee to be near to Nashville’s music scene.

I’ve showed up to meetings where my skin still smelled like smoke ‘cause it doesn’t come out for a day or so after a fire. It was a lot of ups and downs, but it made it [music] way more possible than just a regular nine to five would make it. The average week I would work two days at the fire station and it could be easy where you sleep all night, or it could be tough where you had multiple fires through 48 hours. Then we’d be off work for 96 hours so that made it a lot easier to be able to do some touring and co-works and actually act like I was a full-time musician.”

Even as his music career seemed to be gaining momentum, Tyler had to find a way to still put his all into both.

“People [starting out in music careers] say there’s no Plan B, but the fire service had to be my Plan A at the time. Anytime I was at the station I would act as if I would never leave, and if I wasn’t at the station, I acted if I’d never go back.”

He’s gushing with gratitude for the support from his teams back then, and the favourable shift patterns aren’t the only reason Tyler credits the fire service for helping his second career.

The music industry has so many emotional ups and downs, I don’t know if there was better preparation than the fire service. It definitely influenced who I am and it influenced the empathy and emotion in the songwriting.

Neon Grave, Tyler Braden's EP Cover

That may explain the powerfully emotive nature of many of his self-written songs, from Secret (a personal favourite which seems especially apt while headlines like cost-of-living spread dread nationwide) and radio hit Try Losing One (which I’m filing under heartbreak anthems next to Rascal Flatts’ What Hurts the Most).

Back in the present day, Tyler is hoping to connect with his new UK audience on a visceral level.

When people say that a song touched them enough to make them cry, you want to apologise for that but that actually does mean a lot. Last night, someone told me that a song What Do They Know brought them to tears and I don’t hear that often about that song. There’s something behind that. For something to touch someone that much, to really get emotional about a song is great, that means something very special.”

That stirring song plays like it’s Tyler’s own ‘two fingers up’ to any doubters, in the vein of Ashley McBryde’s ‘Girl Going Nowhere’, first heard over here at the very same event Tyler is in town for. While I refrained from forcing him to name and shame the hometown naysayers who may have been his muse for this rousing ballad, I smile to think of them catching a glimpse of him now, propelled to his deserved place on the international stage.

Tyler Braden’s EP Neon Grave is out now and you can catch him at C2C Festival (Friday in London, Saturday in Glasgow, Sunday in Dublin). He also has hopes to come back for his own full band tour, eyeing up Camden’s KOKO as a personal bucket-list venue.

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